Reverend and the Makers have had a successful year in 2012. They came back after a three year hiatus with the album @Reverend_Makers, which reached number 16 in the album charts, and, after a set of smaller shows earlier in the year and festival appearances, are about to embark on a major UK tour. Dave Brown from Louder Than War spoke to the Reverend himself, Jon McClure about this year, the tour and plans for the future.
Not resting on their laurels, work has already started on album four, with sessions already taking place. Jon explains
âWeâre just trying to crack on and get a good run on the next album. We werenât sure what was going to happen with this album after the last one, but itâs gone top twenty, the tour has sold really well and the festivals were mint. Itâs about confidence, isnât it? You feel good, and you feel confident about it, then you write good music.â
He recognizes the difficulties in promoting the band without the support of major radio and press and is happy to rely on good old-fashioned word of mouth and feels that it is paying dividends at present.
âThis is the battle for everyone these days, isnât it, how you get your music out there, but I think weâre doing alright. Itâs building up again. The album weâve just released is still spreading, people like it and are passing it on to others which is wicked.
Itâs just a good vibe at the moment. Like I said, we werenât sure what the reaction would be when we released this record. Itâs been amazing, itâs picked up and kept gathering pace. Iâm looking forward to going on tour as well, because I could do with a laugh, going out and having it.â
After some particularly well-received festival appearances which brought more new fans into the Reverend fold, the setlist for the upcoming tour is going to be aimed at giving people an adrenalin-fuelled night out.
âWeâre going to play a lot of stuff off the current album, with only a couple of songs off the second album, because thatâs a bit moody, political and psychedelic, which isnât really where we are at the minute. Weâre going to play a lot of up-tempo bangers, so lots of first album, lots of third album and a couple of rare little treats and a couple of slow ones. Weâre going to play Sex With The Ex off the first album, which people have been screaming out for. Itâs going to be a party, because in the festival season we just hammered it and people went mad for it. Weâre just going to give you a good time basically, because when you feel like the crowd are enjoying it, then you enjoy it too.
Weâre not going to play any of the new material off the fourth album because that would be rushing it a bit. Back in the day we probably would do, caught up in the excitement of it, but weâre a lot more calm and collected now.â
Reverend and the Makers have developed a hardcore following called The Rev Army. Jon understands why people are drawn to him and his band.
âI think itâs a lyrical thing, people attach meaning to the songs, and I write about my life and people listen and it applies to their life. Youâre not going to get that with all that pop toss thatâs around at the minute. Being in a band now is like being in an indie band in the eighties, when there was all that stuff like Phil Collins and TâPau in the charts, because it feels like people will realize that itâs all rubbish.
It feels like Iâm the guy outside the greenhouse throwing stones at it, rather than being inside it. You know thereâs certain people in that pop bubble, riding that pop wave, and no one really likes what they do, but are told they should like it.
Ultimately thatâs why weâre still around after eight years and still selling out venues, over a thousand tickets in every town, because it means something to people, itâs a bit more.â
When Jon talks so passionately about his band and the people that follow him, itâs evident that itâs more than just about the music for him, itâs his heart and soul and body thatâs he putting into the music. He interacts daily and openly with fans and critics alike on twitter (@Reverend_Makers).
âItâs like when I go outside with a guitar afterwards. Itâs only just dawning on people what the fuck Iâm about. I think a lot of people have labeled me as part of a laddy band, because of crap journalism basically. This album has thrown them a bit really, because itâs a bit more modern. Weâre getting much more trendy magazines like Artrock talking to us now. Itâs changed peopleâs perspective of us.
I think thereâs an element of what I do on twitter that people buy into, itâs real. And honestly, what it is, is that Iâm not trying to impress anyone. Radio 1 wonât play me because they fucking hate me, so Iâve thought Iâll just do what I want. You see a lot of artists on twitter and theyâre trying to arselick Radio 1 Djs. So I think to myself that I donât need to do that because theyâre not going to play me anyway so I can just be honest and normal and not portray this media dream image of rubbishness.
I like people on twitter, like Frankie Boyle and Joey Barton, people who kick off, people who are starting to stand out to folk. We live in such a safe dream world, where everythingâs so dull, so anyone with an element of a personality with something to say about the world, people gravitate towards that and I find that quite refreshing.â
It might be easy to dismiss him as a mouthy rabble-raiser, but a few minutes talking to him makes you realize heâs actually clued-in to whatâs going on in the music business at the moment and where he and his band fit into the chaos.
âThings have changed so much in the last five years in the record industry, itâs unrecognisible and some people canât get their head around it. Certain bands that were massive five years ago just donât exist anymore. Iâve got my head around it a bit and managed to adapt the way I do my shit to the way itâs gone. Our bandâs almost grown as a result. Last year, I didnât know how people would react to us, so we just put a few little dates on sale, because we werenât sure if anyone would be arsed, and itâs just going up and up and up and people are getting into it. Kids are getting into it for the first time.
Thereâs kids that love guitar music, and songs, and bands that are eighteen and maybe have never even heard our first album, they didnât hear Arctic Monkeysâ first album, who havenât heard a good record before who are getting into it. Thatâs growing and it feels like weâre going to win. It feels like kids are looking for something thatâs not that thing, that horrible safe thing.â
Throughout the interview, Jonâs unshakeable belief in his music and his band comes through. He knows that avenues like Radio 1 are probably closed off to him, but is aware that the internet and other alternative channels are how to get them out there.
âYeah, and Radio 1 know it. Theyâre fighting this battle to corral kids into this thing that theyâre not really into and theyâre shedding listeners left right and centre. Someone said to me recently that it will change, itâll just take ages. Kids are gradually going âwait a minute, this is bollocksâ. Theyâll come and see us and weâre playing instruments and then theyâll go and see some dickhead shouting nonsense over a DJ and kids are not thick, theyâll see that and theyâll get it. I feel great about it, thereâs a good time coming again for music soon.
My heroes are people like The Clash. Have you ever thought what would happen if people like Joe Strummer and Lennon came back and looked at the pop charts, what theyâd make of Jessie J and all those fuckers. In the eighties, the alternative was so strong, the NME was selling thousands of copies and we still had Melody Maker and Sounds and John Peel was there. The NME now sells about three copies so thereâs got to be an alternative culture that emerges. Things canât be this shit for this long. Itâs not been this shit for this long ever before. Weâve got to rally around people with a different vibe. Thatâs why I love John Robb, because he stands out as a journalist, stands out a mile. It takes a while to spread.
I spoke to Richard Hawley a while back and he said âdonât factor any radio fuckers into anything you do, donât factor press, do what you do and keep doing itâ. Heâs 48 and heâs on his seventh album and having it. Heâs been brilliant with us. He told us to just keep going and the same with Noel (Gallagher). And I have done and itâs working, I can feel it working.â
Jon now goes out onto the street outside the venue with an acoustic guitar and plays for fans that have hung around after the shows.
âIt was something I started doing once and then carried it on and itâs inspired people. Ed Sheeran does it sometimes, and he came supporting me years ago when no one had heard of him. Itâs just my little thing, itâs me saying to my fans âlook, this is me coming to stand with you in the streetâ. A lot of those bands that came out the same time of us canât do stuff now. We make a connection and I think it means stuff in peopleâs hearts. If you go and stand in the rain on a cold night when you could be backstage, people remember you for it. And I like doing it, itâs a laugh.â
In a world where people have less and less disposable income, itâs a very intimate way of connecting with his fans, but it can also act as an inspiration to them to pick up their own guitar or recognize that there is a viable alternative to the mainstream.
âAmen, itâs coming. If you do good things, and this sounds a bit simple and naÃ¯ve, if you do good things with good intentions for long enough and if itâs good quality, not peddling shit, after a while people get it and it starts to dawn on them that youâre a bit different. This time a lot of kids will come. Imagine if youâre eighteen and you come and see us, and youâve got into guitar music, and you see us do that. You wonât have seen us do that before and you wonât see others do it again. Professor Greenâs not going to come out and do that, is he?
The fact youâre standing next to someone in the middle of the street. Musicians are like footballers were in the sixties, and footballers are like musicians were. I like diffusing that whole rock myth thing. Iâm stood on the street having a fag with you, talking shit, the same as you are. Iâm not into that celebrity thing. Just look at people like Jessie J and people look at her like a demi-god. I wouldnât want to be worshipped like that, I think itâs a fucking nonsense, so what better way to get past it. I think The Libertines were the best band for doing that when they used to go and play in peopleâs flats. It says look weâre doing this and weâre doing it here and we donât give a fuck. It lives long in peopleâs hearts.
Itâs soul, and what you shouldnât forget is that itâs a right laugh, going out and load of pissed nutters talking bollocks to you, itâs a laugh. It is though, the first gig in Glasgow when we came back, I was getting ragged in the street and I thought it was brilliant, proper funny. Iâve been nicked a couple of times, once because someone got their foot run over by a car in the street.â
Jon has been very vocal in the past about his social and political views and has been involved with the Justice Tonight campaign supporting the families affected by the events of 1989 in his native Sheffield and the Africa Express project.
âI think maybe I went over the top in the second album, but you can still do stuff with soul and meaning. Obviously with Hillsborough, I grew up near the ground and I knew Mick Jones and he rang me up when I was in the kitchen washing pots and asked me if I wanted to sing a Clash song with him at the Leadmill. Iâm a massive Clash fan and obviously I agree with the cause so I did it, and the next thing I was singing it supporting The Stone Roses at Heaton Park.
As for Africa Express, I think thatâs brilliant and Iâve done lots of stuff with them and Iâve been to Africa a couple of times. Itâs not a charitable thing, itâs about doing mad tunes and getting different artists collaborating. Everything thatâs extra-curricular and has a bit of a vibe about it in music is worth pursuing, because it canât all be T4 on the Beach, which isnât what I got into music for.
Work on album four has already been started and Jon is keen to build on the success of @Reverend_Makers.
âItâs going to be a bit of a follow on as I feel I hit a bit of a sweet spot with this album. Our music always reminds people of those bands from the past that we love, but this album has a modern element to it, modern bass sounds and weâre going to try and continue forward while we have our head up and weâre doing well.â
Outside of the band, Jon has also had a side project Reverend Sound System, with a much more dance-oriented sound, and he freely admits that this had an impact on the making of the third album and the future of the band.
âDefinitely. The guy I did Sound System with, Jimmy, he was in the studio last night with us. He proper altered the sound of Reverend And The Makers, probably forever, as the record does have a lot of that bass culture in it. It said to people that weâre not like Happy Mondays Mark II, weâre around now and weâre doing something fresh. I think Bassline caught so many people unawares, and thatâs not a bad thing, but it takes time and it might take more than one record to change everyoneâs perceptions. And I see that as a challenge if someoneâs not convinced, Iâll just keep going because I feel Iâve still got brilliant records left inside me. Whenever I feel like that Iâm just going to crack on, Iâve got another mixtape thatâs brilliant with lots of mad guests on it. People will realize eventually man. Look at Nick Cave, he was this struggling indie musician for twenty years and suddenly everyone and their nan is a Nick Cave fan and I think âhang on, you used to think Nick Cave was shit.â â
Jon concludes our interview with a honest appraisal of how he feels about what he does.
âAs long as I can eat, I feel fortunate I can do this and I feel blessed. We have a saying in Sheffield that âI could be down the pitâ and thatâs literal. â
They play the following tour dates in October :
Weds 10th – Ku Bar, Stockton-On-Tees
Thurs 11th – O2 Academy, Newcastle
Fri 12th – Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh
Sat 13th â O2 Academy, Liverpool
Sun 14th â HMV Ritz, Manchester
Wed 17th â Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
Interview by Dave Brown. You can read more from Dave on LTW here.